A tale of two rioters

August 30, 2011 10:21 am

belfastriot.jpgBy Steve Hilditch

Picture the scene. Two 15 year olds caught up in the riots. Both enter a building and steal something, no violence involved but it’s clearly burglary. Both are caught by CCTV, arrested, charged, and brought before the Courts. Both are sentenced to 6 months in jail. The justice system has worked.

But there is one difference between the two children. One lives with his parents in a small terraced house that they bought 25 years ago and have brought their three children up in. No-one in the family has been in trouble before. The other lives with his parents in a small terraced house that they got from the council 25 years ago and have brought their three children up in. No-one in the family has been in trouble before.

What does justice have to say about this? Both have been dealt with, punished seriously for their crime. Both will have the blight of a criminal conviction and prison sentence hanging over them for years to come. But it’s fair treatment.

The first boy, when released, will return to his family in their family home and try to take up his life. There is some security and stability as he rebuilds. It’s hard but possible.

The second boy, when released, finds that his family has been evicted by the council from the family home because of his crime. They were declared intentionally homeless, so they won’t be rehoused. They have taken two private rented rooms in a shared house at a cost of nearly twice the council rent they were paying. Dad thinks he can’t afford to keep working. The youngest child is bedwetting, a result of the trauma of eviction say the medics. Mum is suffering from depression and is struggling to keep her job. They are not able to take the oldest boy in. He drifts off to stay on someone’s sofa. There is no security and stability from which to build. It’s very hard and it feels almost impossible.

What does justice have to say about this? None of this is fanciful; anyone involved in housing knows that this story reflects the reality.

There is no doubt that the mood is about retribution. Polls show that more people want tenants evicted than don’t. But neighbours who are home owners or private tenants probably don’t want anyone convicted of a serious crime living next to them either. And the determination of some councils to evict, and the government’s determination to make it easier for them, will not apply more generally to your common or garden murderer or rapist or burglar.

It may allow politicians to sound tough. It may be what people want. But it isn’t justice. It’s double punishment, it’s guilt by association, it’s discrimination on the grounds of tenure, pure and simple.

Labour, nationally and locally, should have nothing to do with it.

Steve blogs at Red Brick

Comments are closed

Latest

  • Comment Reforming bus services is an important aspect to revitalising many local economies

    Reforming bus services is an important aspect to revitalising many local economies

    Rail services and infrastructure dominate the debate around transport, but with two thirds of all public transport journeys made by bus we are right to talk more about the importance of local bus services. I serve an area with no rail or light rail link, where many people are entirely dependent on buses. I hear from older residents who are left cut off and isolated, unable to easily access GP or hospital appointments. Shift workers who simply cannot get to […]

    Read more →
  • Comment A rent increase for our Armed Forces tells you all you need to know about David Cameron

    A rent increase for our Armed Forces tells you all you need to know about David Cameron

    This week the Government announced that it would be making changes to accommodation for our service personnel and their families. At first glance you might think that is good news because quite frankly, housing for our service personnel and their families is, at the moment, barely adequate. But what the MoD were actually announcing, hidden under details about a new contract for maintenance, was that our armed forces will now have to pay more in rent to live in accommodation that […]

    Read more →
  • News Scotland Who are the potential candidates for next leader of the Scottish Labour Party?

    Who are the potential candidates for next leader of the Scottish Labour Party?

    Johann Lamont has resigned as leader of the Scottish Labour Party, prompting a new leadership race. As we noted this morning, candidates do not necessarily have to be MSPs, as long as they stand in the Holyrood elections in 2016 – meaning that the next leader could currently be a Westminster MP. So, who are the potential candidates? Here (in alphabetical order) are some of the names that are being mentioned: Douglas Alexander MP: Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary and elections […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Scotland Why Lamont left – and what happens next?

    Why Lamont left – and what happens next?

    Johann Lamont’s resignation was a surprise, if only in terms of timing. Politicians – especially party leaders – rarely resign in newspaper interviews released over the weekend. Yet it seems this decision had been coming for a while. This was not something that transpired over a matter of days, but weeks, months or even years (depending on who you speak to). Lamont has made the right decision to step down. She was facing increasing fire both internally and externally, and didn’t […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour “can indeed win”: Blair denies doom-mongering

    Labour “can indeed win”: Blair denies doom-mongering

    The Scottish Labour Party is not the only headache for Ed Miliband this morning. The Telegraph’s front page doesn’t make for the best reading either, running with the news that Tony Blair predicts a Tory victory next year: However, the story is not all it seems. The only quote The Telegraph supplies is from an anonymous source who claims that the former Labour PM made the prediction in a private meeting with them: “The Conservatives will be the next government […]

    Read more →